Highway crashes take toll on bears

Posted: Friday, November 15, 2002

A brown bear hit on Sterling Highway in Soldotna Sunday night was the seventh brown bear killed by a car on the Kenai Peninsula this year -- an unusually high number.

"Typically there are not seven killed in the whole state in a year," said Alaska Department of Fish and Game area wildlife biologist Jeff Selinger Thursday.

The male cub killed on the highway near Kristin Drive Sunday weighed an estimated 120 to 130 pounds, according to Selinger.

The motorist who hit the animal reportedly was not injured, and her vehicle's bumper was only slightly damaged.

"We have a local fella who was called out to clean and skin the bear," Selinger said. "The skulls are usually cleaned and given to local schools to study and the skins are taken to the Fur Rondy in Anchorage where they're auctioned."

This year, one brown bear was hit and killed by a car on the peninsula in June, three in July, two in October and one Sunday.

Selinger said numerous reasons could explain the high number this year including having more brown bears than previously thought, bears moving around more than usual, more vehicular traffic, or possibly, the bears are looking for den sites later in the year because of the unusually mild fall.

"The bottom line is, we just don't know," he said.

In a normal year, one or two brown bears are killed by cars here; in some years, none have been killed, he said.

Additionally, nine brown bears were killed this year in what are termed "defense of life and property" incidents.

Depending on the condition of the bear skins, hides are auctioned and the proceeds go to the state's general fund, Selinger said.

Brown bear meat is not salvaged.

"There's no requirement to salvage brown bear meat," he said. "Nobody wants it."

Alaska does have a salvage requirement for black bear meat.

As a result of the high number of brown bears killed either by cars or in DLPs earlier this year, no brown bear hunting season was opened.

Seven killed by cars in one year is "the highest I've heard of," said Selinger.

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